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Encouraging entrepreneurship in the next generation

Encouraging entrepreneurship in the next generation image

SHIL Innovation Manager Fiona Schaefer discusses the importance of laying the foundations for future growth through the sharing of knowledge and opportunity.

Entrepreneurs are the agents of meaningful change – they are the innovators of tomorrow, and I believe that we have a bright future ahead here in Scotland built on the values of collaborative thinking, sustainable growth, and shared prosperity.

Entrepreneurs are fundamentally the drivers of innovation, and increasingly they are keen to engender positive societal change. Where MedTech is particularly concerned, I believe there is no shortage of rising stars.

With that in mind, I was delighted to be invited to give a talk to the MedTech Foundation Edinburgh student society on Monday 15th February on the subject of commercialisation and to offer pitching advice.

It was part of a series of talks in their innovation programme with the aim of supporting student teams developing ideas and pitches in response to unmet needs and challenges set by clinicians.

The society encompasses both Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt Universities and focusses on education and collaboration in the medical device industry. It allows medical, engineering and business students to learn more about medical technology innovations and medical device business.

The Edinburgh society is a regional spoke of the larger MedTech Foundation network which is supported by NIHR Surgical MIC funding and established societies in seven university cities across the UK.

Each year, they run an ‘innovation programme’ – a guided accelerator-style format where engineering, medical and business students work in multidisciplinary teams to develop solutions to real unmet clinical needs presented by a clinician expert.

The programme was very successful last year and of the Foundation network’s three teams were chosen to present their solutions at the 2020 ASiT conference while two were selected to present at the 2020 SARS Dublin conference MedTech symposium, though this was unfortunately cancelled.

The unmet needs which the students have been working on addressing this year include:

  • Improving Access to Peri-Operative Care in LMIC Rural Communities or Communities with Resource Constraints, By Professor Ewen Harrison - Professor of Surgery and Data Science at the University of Edinburgh and a Consultant HPB and Transplant Surgeon
  • Improving Wound Sealing in Neurosurgery, Mr Mark Hughes - Consultant Neurosurgeon, Honorary Senior Lecturer University of Edinburgh, Co-founder of eoSurgical
  • Reducing the Rates of Diabetes Associated Foot and Limb Complications, By Dr. Deborah Wake – CEO/Co-Founder of MyWay Digital Health, Honorary Consultant Physician specialising in Diabetes and Clinical Reader at the University of Edinburgh

At the end of the programme – part of the MedTech Foundation’s national engagement initiative for students and early career professionals – the teams present their solution in a pitch-like format and a winner is selected.

I agreed to be part of the judging panel for this concluding Dragons’ Den-style session – an exercise that I believe is extremely useful from the point of view of students having the opportunity to hone presentational skills for real-world scenarios.

Here, they learn how to effectively tell their story, how to clearly and succinctly outline their ideas, and think about what investors want to hear. In short, how to successfully engage and get their innovations to the next crucial stage.

Initiatives such as these are incredibly important when it comes to supporting the grassroots of future healthcare.

Innovation programmes like these offer an opportunity to bring together a range of skills – whether medical, engineering, science, product design, or business – and encourage fresh, collaborative thinking.

It’s also a great chance to foster entrepreneurial skills in the next generation by giving them a platform to explore their creativity and begin to understand exactly what they’re capable of when they combine a variety of skillsets in a multidisciplinary setting.

In doing so, they learn about aspects of starting and developing a medical technology business or research project as they work to develop a solution for a real unmet clinical need.

It doesn’t end there either. At the conclusion of the programme, participating teams learn about relevant conferences to present their work, funding opportunities or pointed towards other expert support. For some, it’s only the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey.

A workshop on Enterpreneurship is also being included in this year’s Edinburgh Student Surgical Society’s National Surgery and Trauma Conference for final year medical students and FY1 graduates held with the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh on 13th March. Surgeons have been behind many successful innovations SHIL has realised such as Cardioprecision (Fraser Sutherland, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde) and the Oplight (ClearSurgical from NHS Ayrshire & Arran surgeon).

Entrepreneurs can change the way we live and work, but they must first have the chance to learn their craft and such initiatives help them to accelerate great ideas but also themselves.

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